Islam The Creator Of Modern Age - From Darkness To Light
God created a perfect world. Then He created man in perfect form. Next He commanded man to live in the world and make use of everything he found in it. Man was told, moreover, that there was only one Creator who should be worshipped. Man was to worship this God alone, and none else besides Him.
But man went astray. He began to worship anything, which was visibly prominent, such as rivers, mountains, etc. He could not continue to make an invisible God the centre of his attention. Worse, his inclination towards visible gods went on increasing. Anything large and impressive was regarded either as a god, or as possessing divine attributes. This engendered, on the one hand, the concept of the sacredness of certain personalities and, on the other, the practice of nature worship, or pantheism. This worship of some thing or person other than God finally developed into shirk, or polytheism.
This shirk gradually came to dominate all aspects of belief and practice, finding its way into every household as a bearer of good omens and a nullifier of bad omens, thus becoming a part of all customs. Moreover, once belief in a divine king was added to all the other polytheistic beliefs, it became a necessary part of the political system.
This was the religion of the ancient world. Worship in those days was based wholly on shirk, to put it in religious terminology, or, in common parlance, superstition.
All the prophets in the past had come with the mission of rectifying this perversion. In all ages, throughout the history of man, they called for the renunciation of shirk and the adoption of monotheism. Over one hundred thousand prophets were said (according to one of the Traditions) to have come to the world from the time of Adam to the time of the Messiah (Christ). But man was not willing to give ear to what they had to say. The message of the prophet was thus confined only to the proclamation of truth; it could not go so far as to bring about a revolution based on this truth.
Rooting out shirk, or superstition, was not a purely religious undertaking. It had, a bearing on all human concerns. The truth is that this all pervasiveness of superstition served as a hurdle to all kinds of human development.
Placing nature upon a pedestal of sanctity had completely discouraged an investigation of it. Without such investigation, scientific and industrial progress was simply not possible. Progress towards the general acceptance of human equality was likewise barred by beliefs concerning the superiority or inferiority of a man’s birth, which had grown out of a variety of baseless suppositions, all governed by superstition. The emergence of all those factors, which today add up to enlightenment and progress, had been rendered impossible by a complete absence of scientific vision. It was superstition, which was responsible for delaying the birth of such an outlook by many centuries.
Efforts on the part of the prophets over a period of thousands of years had proved that any struggle, which was confined, to intellectual or missionary fields was not sufficient to extricate man from the grip of superstition. Even the governments of those times were founded upon superstitious beliefs. The interests of the rulers lay, therefore, in the perpetuation of the age of superstition, so that their subjects might continue to be swayed by the belief in the divine right of kings. (This was so that they should not question their right to rule.) That was why they used all their military and political might to suppress any attempts to put an end to polytheism and superstition by means of a missionary struggle.
Now the question arose as to what strategy should be employed to break down the barriers raised by vested interests. This was the state of affairs when the final Prophet, Muhammad, may peace be upon him, came to the world in the sixth century A.D.
It was God’s decree that he be a da’i (missionary) as well as a mahi (eradicator). He was entrusted by God with the mission of not only proclaiming to the world that superstitious beliefs were based on falsehood, but also of resorting to military action, if the need arose, to eliminate that system for all time.
Addressing the Prophet, the Qur’an observes:
We have revealed to you this book so that, by the will of their Lord, you may lead men from darkness to light (14:1).
This same mission of leading men from darkness to light had been entrusted to all the prophets in turn. The sense, however, in which the Prophet of Islam was distinct from the others was that, in his case, God had decreed—since no Prophet was to come after him—that he should not just communicate the divine message to humanity and leave it at that, but that he should also take practical steps to change the entire existing state of affairs.
The prerequisites for putting this plan into action were all provided by God. Moreover, God also guaranteed that any shortcoming in worldly resources would be amply compensated for by special help from the angels.
This point has been made in the Hadith in different ways. One hadith in particular is quite direct in its wording: “I am the eradicator through whom God will obliterate unbelief”. Thus the Prophet was not just a dai, but also a mahi. He was the caller to the faith, but he had also to compel people to answer his call. The Qur’an clearly states that besides human beings, God’s angels would also help him in accomplishing his mission.
This commandment of God was, indeed, realized through the Prophet, so that a whole new era could be ushered in.